Pros: Wireless works well, once setup. Text print quality, speed. Scanning, copying work well. Mac support.
Cons: Slow photo printing, difficult wireless setup
The HP Photosmart C4385 All-in-One Printer is a mid range multifunction inkjet photo and document printer with 802.11g wireless support. My daughter, living at college, recently requested a small footprint printer that would work with her Macbook laptop. She'd use the printer mostly for printing out reports and other homework assignments, but would also occasionally use the copy, scan and photo printing capabilities. After looking mostly at Canon and HP models, I ending up choosing this HP C4385, as much to try out the wireless networking feature more than anything else. The printer was on sale for $130 when I bought it, $20 less than the normal price of $150. Comparable models w/o the wireless capability run about $100.
I originally thought the wireless networking would be pretty useful, though after we've actually set it up and tried it, we found wireless printing really didn't fit our situation and reconfigured the printer to connect to the Macbook with a USB cable. The easiest way to set this printer up wirelessly is via the wireless connection on a router or access point. That allows users to use the same wireless network to access the printer, the internet, and other computers on a network. If you don't have a router, as was the case in my daughter's campus apartment, an "ad hoc" wireless network is required. To connect the printer directly to a computer via a wifi connection, we needed to first set up an ad hoc network profile on the computer, and then used that network to connect to the printer. That worked, but when you wanted to print, you had to connect to the ad hoc network, and disconnect from other wireless networks (in this case, the campus wireless network).
We decided it was easier to plug in the USB cable for printing rather than reconfigure the Macbooks' wireless network connection each time she wanted to print. (Reconfiguring was particularly annoying when you wanted to print web pages.) I would have at least liked to have been able to leave the printer configured to work both ways, via the wireless and/or USB cable, but that wasn't an option, users have to choose one connnection option only, and the only way to change the setup was to re-run the configuration wizard from the installation cd.
Otherwise the printer meets expectations, decent print quality and speeds (especially for text), very good quality scans and copies, and solid software that works on both the Macbook and Vista PC we've used this printer with. Printing costs are not cheap, but are competitive. Getting the ad hoc wireless connection set up between computer and printer was not documented very well and took more than one try. The setup wizard is more suited for users with USB connections or router, and I'd expect most users wanting to set up an ad hoc direct printer to computer wireless connection to find HP's setup guide inadequate. If you read other reviews on the internet, you'll see other users have struggled getting the wireless connection working. The HP C4385 is a decent photo printer, but it is very slow and the quality is only average. I'd recommend other models if photo printing is a priority. However, if you need an inexpensive wireless networked printer, the HP C4385 is a reasonable choice. I've found the printer and scanner both work well over a wireless ad hoc connection between a PC running Vista with a USR 802.11g wireless adapter, with speeds that feel just as fast as when you connect with a USB cable.
Other features that influenced my purchasing decision included...
Memory card slots for compact flash, memory stick, sd and xD cards
Availability of economy size ink cartridges
1200 dpi flatbed scanner/copier
document print speeds up to 30 ppm
front paper inlet and discharge
1.5 LCD display (small, but easily readable)
Admittedly, most of these specs' are ho-hum these days, and if you aren't looking for wireless support, I'd recommend serious consideration of Canon's all in one printers before buying this model. I don't regret this purchase, but home users with a little more space might find Canon's models attractive. I like Canon's software a little better than HP's, particularly the included photo scanning software.
One interesting note about this printer, its one of the few I've seen that includes a USB cable in the box. The cable is required to set up the printer, even if you plan to use the printer wirelessly.
Document Print Speed and Quality
Using the wireless ad hoc connection, I checked a few print speeds, and find document printing to be reasonably fast. Printing single spaced pages of text in (the surprisingly acceptable) draft mode takes under 4 seconds per page. Each time you start to print, the printer takes 10-15 seconds to warm up and draw in the first sheet of paper, that is, 4 full pages of single spaced text will take about 25 seconds to print, about 12 to warm up, and about 13 seconds to print. Pages shoot out of the printer in this mode, so much so, in fact, there's a stop at the end of the paper tray to catch the printed pages as they come out. Pages that include text and graphics take about 5 seconds each to print in draft mode. (HP calls this draft mode FAST and ECONOMICAL.)
In Normal print mode, single spaced pages of text take about 7 seconds to print, while pages with graphics take about 20 seconds, again, with print starting after a short 12-15 second warm up and paper load time. HP quotes print speeds up to 30 pages per minute, but I don't expect to ever see times quite that fast, as they apply to optimum print speeds for double spaced pages in draft mode.
I was impressed with the quality of the text documents printed in draft mode. You might expect draft mode print to be a little fuzzy and significantly more grey than black, but the HP C4385's print quality was solid even in draft mode. Colors were a little faded, but more than suitable for day to day usage. You could tell the text on normal mode prints was a little blacker than the text in draft mode prints only if you placed them side by side.
The quality of images on plain paper is good, bright accurate colors, with no detectable banding, quite acceptable for a printer in this range.
Photo printing is not the C4385's strength. Using the included HP 74 black cartridge and HP 75 tricolor cartridge, printing 4 X 6 photo's in best quality mode takes over 2 minutes, typically about 2 minutes and 20 seconds. The quality of images is reasonably good if good quality photo paper is used, but not great. I compared images printed on this HP with images printed on my wife's Canon MP610 (a more expensive Canon all-in-one, with no networking built in that runs about $160 street price). The Canon prints were just a little brighter, and displayed fine details a little better. The Canon was also much faster, printing a 4 X 6 in less than 40 seconds. If photo quality is critical, HP does offer a second color cartridge for this printer, which replaces the black cartridge. I've not tried the 6 color printing option, but I'm sure it would help. As is, the image quality is OK, especially for casual use.
As soon as you lift the lid of the C4385, it wakes up and is ready to copy. Copying a full page full color document takes about 135 seconds in best quality mode. In the default medium mode, 75 seconds are required, and while the lowest qualilty mode takes ~45 seconds. The quality of the best and medium modes is similar, very accurate, and satisfying image and color reproduction. If you put the images side by side, you can see the best mode image is a little brighter and has a bit more detail, but both are quite good. I'd expect most users to only take advantage of the best mode occasionally. The low quality copy mode provides accurate images, except that they look faded. Copying a full page of single spaced black text is fairly fast, and takes about 45 seconds.
Launching HPs Solution Center printer menu provides one button access to the scanning features (scan documents or images) as well as access to the printer settings and ink levels. I was very impressed with the C4385's ability to scan text documents and convert the scans to text documents that you could further edit. When I printed this review, and then scanned it with HP's OCR software the recovered text was near perfect, with most formatting and special characters intact.
The HP C4385 scans images quite nicely also. If you place more than one photo on the glass panel and then scan the images, the HP software will recognize the separate images, and save them as separate files. Scan times are reasonable, a full page 300 dpi scan takes about 80 seconds, and the images can be saved in jpg, tif, bmp, and pdf formats. The quality of the scans is good, with accurate details and color reproduction. The HP software (on a PC, I haven't much experience on the Mac yet) offers quite a few editing features, it covers all the basics, cropping, rotating images, resizing, adjusting color, and more, and is fairly intuitive.
Cost of Ownership
The HP C4385 uses 2 ink cartridges, a black cartridge (model 74) and a tricolor cartridge (model 75). For optimum photo printing, the black cartridge can be replaced with a model 99 tricolor cartridge. Two versions of the 74 and 75 cartridges are available, a standard (low capacity) version, and the XL high capacity versions. HP rates the cartridges as follows:
HP 74 (black) - 200 pages text, $15
HP 75 (tricolor) 170 pages text and graphics or 45 photos (60 when used with the HP 99 cartridge) $15
HP 74XL - 750 pages text $30
HP 75XL - 520 pages text and graphics or 145 photos (190 when used in combination with the HP 99) $35
HP 99 (photo color) 125 photo's
The page estimates are based on are based on a standard ISO test (http://h10060.www1.hp.com/pageyield/articles/us/en/IsoInkjetYield.html )I haven't checked ink usage carefully, but numbers are in the ballpark of what our experience has been, that is, pages of text will require about 4 cents worth of ink to print, and 4X6 photo's will take 25-30 cents worth of ink to print, if you use the XL cartridges. Unfortunately, the XL cartridges are a little harder to find in stores, the standard cartridges seem to be more widely available.
In standby mode (printer turned on, but LCD display off) the HP C4385 draws about 5 watts. When color copying, power draw bounces between 12 and 20 watts. Even with relatively heavy usage, this printer will use less than 2 cents worth of electricity per day if left on 24 hours per day. The printer is not Energy Star certified. (Measurements taken with a P3 Kill a Watt Power meter.)